Is your little one on track or having difficulties in meeting baby milestones with eating? Here are some things to look for through the first year of life, and some red flags to look for, so you will know when to seek additional help from an occupational therapist.
Birth to Six Months Baby Milestones in Feeding
From the time your baby is born until six months of age your baby’s diet consists of breast milk, formula, or a combination of both. During this time babies are fed on demand when they are hungry. A sucking reflex and tongue-thrust reflex are present to help babies with breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
Six to Eight Months Baby Milestones in Feeding
Six to eight months: Around this time is when your baby can start trying their first foods. Firsts foods can include stage 1 baby foods (smooth pureed), along with infant cereal. Stage 1 foods include single ingredient smooth pureed fruits and vegetables. Infant cereals are usually rice or oatmeal based. Around this time the tongue-thrust reflex starts to disappear, which allows babies to begin to learn to use a spoon. If your child doesn’t like a spoon at first, that’s okay! It may take some practice. You may also have to wait until your baby loses their tongue-thrust reflex. This is usually around six to eight months but may persist longer in children with developmental delays. Another one of the key developmental baby milestones to look for when starting your baby on foods is the ability to sit up. Your baby should be able to sit up on their own or with just a little support before starting on baby food. Highchairs should be chosen to help support your baby in an upright position while eating.
Eight to Ten Months Baby Milestones in Feeding
Eight to ten months is the time your baby can start trying a greater variety of foods and mixed flavored foods. Stage 2 (thick pureed) and stage 3 (pureed with chunks) foods can be introduced along with dissolvable solid foods. This includes foods like pudding, whole milk yogurt, pureed potatoes/sweet potatoes or pureed meats. Stage 3 foods are pureed with small chunks. These foods include mashed up banana, avocado, carrots, and other vegetables, and meats. This is also the time when flavors can be combined. Some favorites are apple strawberry banana puree, chicken vegetable puree, and chicken rice puree. Dissolvable solids include cheerios, baby puffs, and yogurt melts. At this age, your baby should be starting to use their hands to feed themselves. They should be developing a pincer grasp (using their index finger and thumb to pick up small finger foods). Some children have difficulty transitioning from smooth pureed foods to pureed foods with chunks due to sensory processing differences. If your child hasn’t made the transition to pureed food with chunks by around ten to twelve months, consult with an occupational therapist.
Ten to Twelve Months Baby Milestones in Feeding
Ten to twelve months: At this age, babies can increase their intake of table foods. Some foods your baby can try are macaroni and cheese, peas, soft beans, corn, zucchini and meats that are cooked well and cut in small chunks. Your baby should also have met their baby milestones by beginning finger feeding and should be starting to use a utensil with some help. Does your child refuse to touch food or have food on their hands to self-feed? If so, this could be an indicator of a sensory processing difference.
Red Flags to Look for in Feeding
Red flags to look for include:
- Difficulty progressing through feeding stages
- Regressing in feeding stage
- Will only tolerate eating limited textures or flavors
- Mealtime takes longer than 30 minutes
Remember to be patient. Not all baby milestones will be met at exactly the recommended month, and a few weeks later is usually nothing to be concerned about. If you suspect your child may have feeding and eating difficulties due to delayed fine motor skills, delayed oral motor skills (chewing) or sensory processing differences, speak with an occupational therapist about what can be done to help your child get on track.